Ex NBA Scribe Demands Overhaul of Nigerian Constitution

August 6, 2020

A Former General Secretary, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), has demanded for the overhaul of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution.

Mazi Afam Osigwe who made this known in an interview with ElombahNews said the 1999 Nigerian constitution is unhealthy for development.

“It delved into issues which a constitution should not dabble into”, Osigwe stated.

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Mazi Afam Osigwe was speaking during an Elombah TV Hotspot video interview, titled, ‘The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Elections and Judicial Review’, on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Nigerian Constitution

Osigwe’s reaction was in response to Prof. Auwal Yadudu’s remarks on the 1999 constitution, broadcast on Governance Index.

The former NBA scribe said, “I wish he took that advice when they drafted that constitution, there are too many unnecessary details included in our constitution.

“I have had the opportunity of reading the American constitution and I have seen how scanty it is and yet the American constitution has been developed into a constitutional master piece as a result of judicial action.

“Our constitution is unhealthy and have gone into issues which a constitution should not have delved into.

Judicial delays

Decrying the delay on judicial decisions, Osigwe said, “We need to overhaul the whole system, we too must learnt that not everything must go to court.

“We may also have to model our electoral matters after the America system where; once the courts have issued a decision on a matter, the matter will not come for hearing again.

“Why should chieftaincy matter go to supreme court? why should a tenancy matter go to the supreme court? Why would matter of customary law or sharia matter goes to supreme court?

“Where they will not talk on constitutional issues, why can’t we create appellate courts at the state level that will take final decisions on some issues and only proceed to the supreme court when a constitution has been violated.

Election petitions

Osigwe also demanded speedy hearing of electoral matters in Nigeria like that of the 1979 Election Petitions Panel.

He frayed the Judiciary over too much involvement in matters adding that the judicial process must be structured in a way that Election matters are dispensed with speed.

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The former National Secretary of NBA demanded for a return to the 1979 and 1983 election petitions Panel in which all matters are resolved before the swearing-in of a candidate, adding that not all election matters should be taken to the Supreme Court.

Osigwe said, “if you look at elections conducted between 1979 and ,1983, the election petition with challenged elections concluded before the swearing-in took place.

“The Panel members were constituted by Chief judge of their states, we were trusted to do the right thing when we have situation.

“It appeared then there was trust that being the chief judge of a state, he will do the right thing, but now what happens is that the President of Court of Appeal constitute election panels for the entire nation.

“Imagine the effect on a judge taking from Yobe to Anambra, Borno to Enugu state and so on. What happens?

“These judges have their regular sitting disrupted. They leave their families, they leave their judicial work and the cases they were handling to start sitting on electoral petitions.

“Their regular courts are kept in abeyance .

“Why don’t we look at what happened in  the 1979 Elections Panel that allowed for quick dispensation of judgement,.

“Why can’t we have a situation whereby certain election petitions are considered by the Supreme court and that matter will be concluded within 21 days.

“Why must we have such lengthy period for election petitions in Nigeria?

“We need to look at it holistically and we need to look at why the judiciary is so entrenched and involved in the electoral processes.

“The Judiciary should be structured so that such cases are dispensed speedily.”

“Why must governorship election petitions continue up to the supreme court?

“The supreme court is over worked. We need to look at our rules and make them more flexible.

“We need to get back to the drawing board on the judiciary.

“The fact that the law says you must conclude election matter within six months should not stop us from concluding it within two or three months.

“We should save valuable time and also build confidence in the minds of the people.”

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